Do you want to start a meditation practice? Is this your first time or have you tried many times before? Has mindfulness or concentration meditation left you feeling aggravated, bored or feeling like a failure? Or are you just looking to switch up your practice, to keep it fresh? Well, good news! There’s another meditation technique that’s the opposite of mindfulness and concentration meditations. It’s called non-meditation. And, further good news, non-meditation is the best meditation.
In concentration meditation, we attempt to focus our mind on a single source like the breath or a sound. A focused mind is a pleasant mind. So we attempt to cultivate focus. In mindfulness meditation, we attempt to use our focused mind to gain insight into the truth of the world and our suffering. We explore our perceptions, our emotions, the mechanics of our thinking and how they all interplay. Through gaining this insight, we are able to suffer less as we grow in wisdom. A wise mind is a pleasant mind. So we attempt to cultivate wisdom through insight. These are phenomenally powerful practices. They’ve improved the lives of many people throughout time in ways to which words can’t do proper service. However, they also have given modern people a fair amount of grief.
Many people find concentration and mindfulness meditations actually leave them feeling more stressed out than they were before. They find they can’t control their racing minds. They find they can’t silence their thoughts. People try to follow the meditation instructions, but it’s particularly difficult and painful. Then, many feel like a failure. Many conclude, “Maybe meditation just isn’t for me.” or “I don’t know how anyone does that.” or “I’m not even sure why anyone would do that. Let alone do it every day for increasing amounts of time.” And this frustration keeps many from developing a regular practice. Well, again, there’s good news. There’s another meditation practice we can try, non-meditation. And further good news, non-meditation is the best meditation.
Non-meditation is just as beneficial as mindfulness meditation, if not more so! And it’s much more comfortable and easy to stick to. “Non-meditation” (sometimes called “Open Awareness”, “Resting Awareness” or “Natural Awareness”) is the practice of resting, relaxing, letting the mind be natural. No need to become focused. No need to stop the thinking mind. No need to avoid distraction. No need to make your mind be any special way at all. In non-meditation, we practice resting with our mind as it is. We practice letting go of doing anything. When people practice it, many benefit greatly. They find the practice allows them to naturally find peace in their lives. They find it naturally allows them to gain insight or not be so bothered by the difficulties in their lives. They find the mind naturally begins to accept itself. They find they’re able to accept more and more experiences. They’re able to be in harmony with their values and the world, living how they want to without undo friction. And best of all, they find practicing enjoyable! So, if meditation hasn’t worked for you, why not try “Non-meditation”?! Why not see if non-meditation is the best meditation for you.
Non-meditation is exactly what it sounds like, not meditating! Hooray! If meditating was causing us problems, it’s good to know we can try the exact opposite and get great benefits. When we sit (or stand or walk) while practicing non-meditation we don’t have to do anything. Great! We aren’t trying to get focused. We aren’t looking to quiet the mind, or gain insight into its mechanics. Nice! We just rest with the mind as it is without doing and controlling anything. And that’s it!
“That all sounds great,” you might be thinking, “But… then what exactly do we do? And how could ‘not’ meditating be beneficial?” Non-meditation is a gentle practice where we learn to practice relaxing with the natural mind as it is, completely at ease in the present moment. And over time with practice, our minds learn to relax naturally without us even having to think about it. This is beneficial because our minds are always doing. Doing and controlling. And it’s exhausting us. Our minds “do” and “do” and “do.” All day, every day. Twenty-four seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Our mind is “doing” from the moment we get up, to the moment we try to go to sleep. Sometimes the “doing” mind doesn’t even allow us to sleep! It just keeps, “doing”. What is anxiety but the mind doing and doing so it can control and control.
So, the practice of non-meditation teaches our mind how to let go of doing and controlling. And this skill naturally relaxes us. That’s why non-meditation is the best meditation. Other techniques like concentration and mindfulness meditation often have the opposite strategy. They try to teach us how to do a practice to control our minds. It’s almost as if they are saying, “Ah, to fix the problem of your overactive doing and controlling mind, we’ve created a solution… You’re going to do these certain things and try to gain control over other things! You’ll be cured in no time.” Now, to be clear, the teachers of these practices do not explicitly say this or intentionally convey this message. And many find that concentration and mindfulness actually work for calming the mind. I know they have for me. However, even for these people, they likely would benefit from non-meditation. Non-meditation can even allow one to practice concentration and mindfulness in a more relaxed and pleasant way, increasing their benefits. And that’s why non-meditation is the best meditation.
“That’s all great,” you say to yourself, “But I still don’t understand how to practice this thing you keep talking about.” Well, you’re in luck. Now we’ll explore a few different ways to go about the practice of non-meditation. There’s also a recorded Youtube series explaining how to do it that concludes with a guided meditation. So check out that video series or just follow the instructions below. If it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the practice right, that’s totally cool! You don’t need to do anything about that. Just try this a few times and see if it doesn’t naturally unfold and relax you in its own way in its own time. Here we go!
Let go of the doing and controlling mind. Find your meditation posture, set your intention, something like, “May this practice make me happier. And may that happiness ripple out to everyone I know and all beings.” Take a few deep breaths. Then! Just let go of doing anything. Let go of controlling. Simply sit and let the mind be as it is. The mind will begin to do things. It’s what it’s been doing its whole life! That’s okay, just let it do, but let go of it, don’t become involved in it. Rest, allowing everything to happen. When the urge to control anything comes up, just let it go. Don’t meditate! You don’t need to meditate. You can just rest without trying to do or control anything. Just rest as you are. When you find you’re doing or controlling, just rest again. You don’t need to meditate. Because non-meditation is the best meditation.
Rest, completely at ease in the present moment. Same set-up as last time: posture, intention, a few deep breaths. Then! Just allow yourself to rest, completely at ease in the present moment. Just, for a moment, let go of making anything into a problem that needs to be solved. Just rest in the “general hum and buzz” of the universe as Alan Watts might say. Rest completely at ease. And when part of you appears that says, “But I don’t want to be at ease with _______. I don’t like this pain. I don’t like this memory. I need to solve these problems!” That’s great! Just rest completely at ease with this as well! Every thought or objection that comes up doesn’t need to be dealt with or eschewed. Rest, completely at ease, even with the parts of you that are not at ease. Everything’s allowed. There’s nothing you could do wrong. Just rest, completely at ease with everything as it is in the present moment. Don’t meditate! You don’t need to meditate because non-meditation is the best meditation.
Rest with that which couldn’t be otherwise. Same set-up: posture, intention, a few deep breaths. For this way of practicing, simply adopt the following perspective, everything happening couldn’t have been otherwise. You can let go of this perspective when you’re done with practice. But just for now, rest with the attitude that everything that happens couldn’t have been otherwise. A lot of times the friction in our lives comes from the illusion that life and things in life could have been otherwise. But in a deep sense, we didn’t choose to be born, we didn’t choose our caretakers. We didn’t choose our genes. We didn’t make our culture. We are living with the fruits of processes so large as to be out of our control. Even our own minds are not so under our control. We don’t think our thoughts, we think society’s thoughts. We feel the emotions of our parents, our friends. So just rest, letting go of the sense that things could be different and flow with the present moment. Don’t meditate! You don’t need to meditate because non-meditation is the best meditation.
Rest with the natural and ordinary mind. Posture, intention, a few deep breaths. Simply allow the mind to be totally ordinary. Don’t try to make it be any special way. Allow the mind to be natural. Rest in the natural mind, as it is. Just like a biologist observing a natural ecosystem doesn’t try to change the ecosystem to make it better, so you don’t have to change your mind to make it better. Rest with the ordinary mind. Allow the mind to be ordinary. You don’t need to “go deep”. Some days a biologist might show up and the waters of a marsh may be muddy. Some days he may show up and they’re clear. He can see right to the bottom. But on both days, he just observes. The biologist doesn’t need to interfere. So, leave your mind to be natural and ordinary. Everything that happens is natural! All your thoughts. All your emotions. All perceptions. All perfect! Rest with them. Nothing “wrong” could happen. You can’t have any bad thoughts or wrong emotions. Rest with the natural mind as it is. Your mind is perfect. You don’t need to meditate! Rest with your ordinary mind as naturally as possible. You don’t need to meditate because non-meditation is the best meditation.
If you’re still struggling with how to do it, here are two recommendations: try a few times and surrender to whatever happens. If you don’t get it, try your best for a few moments and then try again tomorrow. If you’re not sure you’re doing it right, just surrender to whatever’s happening and let it take its course.
So, there you go! Those are four sets of instructions you can use to practice non-meditation. Try them. Keep what works for you. Discard what doesn’t. Start small in your practice, maybe just one minute. Only go longer once you’ve established a daily habit for a few weeks. Thanks for reading and I hope non-meditation is the best meditation for you.
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